That is a good question, but it is not the only one to be answered – or asked. The first question to consider is, “When is the campaign over?” For the key volunteers and the campaign executive committee, the urgent and pressing work of the campaign consists of the active solicitation of donors: actual asking for, and receiving commitments of, cash gifts and pledges. I refer to this as the “Active Phase” of the campaign. Many mistakenly believe that the end of the Active Phase signals the end of the campaign. The Active Phase is complete when all leadership and major level prospects have been solicited, and when the stated campaign goal is reached, and hopefully exceeded, through the total of all gifts received and pledged. However, at this point the campaign is far from over.
For the governing board and staff there is another phase that is required in order to reach the successful conclusion of the campaign. I refer to this as the “Pledge Redemption Phase.” It is a great thought to consider that every commitment obtained would immediately be paid in cash or cash equivalents but that is not the emphasis in a capital campaign. By providing the pledge process for gifts to be payable over a defined time period, most people and institutions can make much larger gifts than they could make through a single, one-time donation. So, gifts are secured with pledges that are payable over three to five years. During this time period, much can be gained – or lost.
During the Pledge Redemption Phase regular communication is the critical activity to insure that the campaign is a complete and resounding success. Pledge reminder letters should be sent to donors prior to their pledge payment due date. Sometimes, a second reminder is needed to prompt the donor to remit the scheduled payment. Additionally, frequent communication about the progress of the project and programs will keep the organization in the forefront of the donors’ minds. The old adage, “Out of sight – out of mind,” is certainly valid in this context. If your donors never see your organization, then you will likely not see your donors – or their donations!
Communication and cultivation can be accomplished through a variety of interesting methods. Newsletters, special occasion cards, personal notes recognizing a donor’s accomplishments or illnesses, donor cultivation events, and inexpensive donor appreciation gifts are just a few of the means through which donors remain informed and involved during the pledge redemption phase and beyond.
During the Pledge Redemption Phase there continues to be opportunities for new donations as the development of the project proceeds. The building will be constructed, the endowment will grow, the new programming will be established and any other components of the project that are funded with campaign dollars will take shape. Regular progress updates through media outlets are an excellent way to retain a high level of enthusiasm in the community for the project. It is perfectly appropriate during this phase to ask for new donations from those who have not yet given. Just be careful not to re-solicit a current donor, unless of course they are sending signals that they are warm to the idea!
So, when all of the pledges are paid and the project is complete – where do we go from here? In many organizations, especially larger ones, this is the time to plan the next capital campaign! Donors have spent the past three to five years giving to your organization at levels much higher than before, and they have watched your organization grow through regular communication. They know that they are appreciated because of the many ways you have shown them. Now, they are most likely willing to continue giving to assist with future growth. “Capitalize” on the investment you have made in your organization and in your donors by identifying needs and new opportunities for growth. Then, begin the next capital campaign!
Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) has become one of North America's best and most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.